For the Republicans, Halloween is over

Published 10:09 pm Monday, February 20, 2006

By By Tray Smith
Big government is not the answer, but the alternative to bureaucracy is not indifference. It is to put conservative values and conservative ideas into the thick of the fight for justice and opportunity. This is what I mean by compassionate conservatism. And on this ground, we will lead our nation." That quote was made by Texas Governor George W. Bush when he accepted the Republican nomination for President in the summer of 2000. Since then, he has led us largely on that ground, but, unfortunately, compassionate conservatism has been proven a politically hopeless philosophy based on a failing public policy.
Conventional conservatism is the idea of small government, low taxes, and little government involvement in the economy along with a large government role in safe guarding moral values. Conventional liberalism is the idea of a large government with high taxes that redistributes income in order to support the lower class, with a small government role in safeguarding moral values. Compassionate conservatism combines the liberal idea of big government with the conservative idea of preserving moral values to form a new political philosophy.
A perfect example of the contrasting philosophies is sex education. Conventional conservatives do not support federal funds for sex education, while conventional liberals do. But compassionate conservatives support government funds for abstinence-only sex-education. Similarly, a conventional conservative supports limited federal financing of education, deeming it appropriately as a state issue, while liberals support increased funding for education. One of Ronald Reagan's priorities was eliminating the Department of Education. One of Bill Clinton's priorities was expanding that department. President Bush has expanded that department as well, but at the same time he has overhauled the education system by promoting testing, accountability and results-oriented financial support.
While members of the media have desperately tried to paint the President as a fanatical right-winger, the truth is he is a centrist on domestic policy. He cannot be compared to President Reagan or Newt Gingrich, who are standard bearers for conventional conservatism. At the same time, he is nothing like Bill Clinton, a symbol of liberal politics. Instead, he is governing on completely new ground. The basic idea of this new philosophy is a big government supporting Republican programs.
However, after five years of compassionate conservative programs, the federal government has produced few positive results. Record surpluses have been turned into record deficits. More and more people have found themselves relying on government services. Government spending has continued to grow faster than inflation, and the federal budget process remains an arcane procedure that pushes spending to new heights every year.
The recent scandals on Capitol Hill that have sent Republicans running for cover are a direct result of these big government policies. Compassionate Conservatism has backfired, and permanently disproved is the idea that politicians can win over people's votes by handing out government funds. The recent Medicare benefit has done nothing to help the Republican Party make inroads with the elderly, just as the No Child Left Behind Act has done nothing to help the Republican Party gain popularity with educators. Not only is compassionate conservatism bad policy, it is bad politics. The poor implementation of the new Medicare Prescription Drug benefit is not surprising in that the federal government has yet again failed, but it is surprising that it is the product of a Republican government. People want a smaller and less intrusive government, and the Republicans have finally figured that out.
Earlier this month, House Republicans elected John Boehner as their new majority leader. He has pledged to get the reform process back on track, and bring the Republican Party back to its small government roots. At the same time, they defeated Roy Blunt, who was the heir apparent to Tom Delay and front-runner in the race. The President's budget calls for substantial savings and will keep us on track to reducing the budget deficit in half by 2009. He has also proposed solving the long-term fiscal challenges of Social Security and Medicare yet again. Finally, Republicans have figured out it is ok to be themselves again. Finally, Halloween is over. That is the bottom line.
Tray Smith is a freshman at Escambia Academy. He writes a political column for the Atmore Advance. He can be reached for comment at His column appears weekly.

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